HARDMAN, Edward (1741-1814), of Drogheda, co. Louth.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

1801 - 1806

Family and Education

b. 1741, 1st surv. s. of Edward Hardman, merchant, of Drogheda by Lucy, da. of Rev. Hans Montgomery of Grey Abbey, co. Down. m. 1766, Jane, da. of James Blackwood of Ballyleidy, co. Down, 7s. 8da. suc. fa. 1779.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1797-1800.

Mayor, Drogheda 1768.

Biography

Hardman, a third generation Drogheda merchant, was a protégé; of John Foster*, who brought him into the last Irish parliament on the government interest. Like his patron, he supported administration except on the Union, which he collaborated with Foster in opposing. Despite this, one of his sons was given preferment in the church. On his return to Westminster, Hardman was thought to be Foster’s man, but ‘on sale’. His eldest son Edward (1768-1854) who, after being sponsored by Foster, had been a confidential secretary in Lord Minto’s missions to Toulon and Corsica, but idle for the last four years apart from a captaincy in the Louth militia, informed Minto, 8 Feb. 1801:

My father wishes to support government in Parliament, and in fact has never since he came into Parliament voted against them, except on the Union to which he had been pledged previous to his election. His great and only object is now to obtain a provision for me.

The provision Hardman had in mind was the collectorship of Drogheda, worth £900 p.a. and at present held by his father’s ailing uncle: but he was not averse to a situation of less value while he waited for this plum, such as the port surveyorship and barrack mastership, for which his father applied for him in July 1801. Hardman senior also wished to be a trustee of the linen board, but this for his constituents’ sake, not his own.1

When nothing was done and the threat of a contest at the next election emerged in the autumn of 1801, Hardman, failing to obtain an immediate pledge of support from the government, declined the circular to attend Parliament, making an excuse of the necessity to safeguard his constituency interest. Meanwhile he asked for the collectorship of Drogheda for his son and, failing that, either the collectorship of Donaghadea or the port surveyorship of Belfast, whichever might become vacant; renewed his application to be of the linen board, and pressed for local patronage, as an indication of government confidence in him. On 29 Dec. he promised the government that he would attend if assured their support at Drogheda, where his canvass had shown that it would ‘put an end to opposition’.2

Hardman was in the House on 31 Mar. 1802, when he did not follow John Foster in voting for an inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s Cornish revenue.3 His son hoped that his support would expedite his claims. It was not vocal and, in his only speech that session, Hardman complained of the tips extorted by customs officers from Irish Members, 12 June. The chief secretary admitted, 9 June, that Hardman had ‘voted against Mr Foster once or twice lately’, but this, he explained to the viceroy, was regarded by his predecessor Abbot and by Isaac Corry as ‘a trick to secure himself the government interest’. He claimed that the prime minister, Addington, concurred with them in urging the Castle to throw out Hardman, if possible, at the next election, ‘as his attachment to Mr Foster is considered as unquestionable, and there is little doubt but that next year Mr Foster will be in open opposition’.4 The Castle was therefore committed irrevocably to Hardman’s opponent Ogle when on 12 July 1802 Addington requested them if possible to support Hardman, who had written to him for the purpose, emphasizing his support of ministers. He explained:

No person could be more regular in his attendance, or more steady in his support than Mr Hardman was during the last session, and I understand his character to be perfectly respectable. He is, I know, a friend of Foster’s, but that cannot be a just or colourable reason for proscribing him.

In his reply to Hardman, Addington professed ignorance of the opposition to him at Drogheda. Hardman complained to the viceroy, pointing out that he had received ‘more than the usual circular notes’, but it was too late to prevent the ‘unlucky misunderstanding’. The effects of it were palliated by the Castle’s failure to make good its support for Hardman’s opponent and by Foster’s efforts on Hardman’s behalf which secured him victory by five votes.5

When a petition was threatened against his return, Hardman asked government to prevent it: the chief secretary concurred, but not until Hardman had conceded that it was his intention to continue to support government as before ‘notwithstanding what passed at Drogheda’. This was a sop to Addington, who privately admitted he had been in the wrong. The viceroy objected to ‘somewhat of menace’ in Hardman’s plaidoyer, and still more to his exploiting the occasion to ask for provision for his son Edward as a kind of ‘reparation’ and asking for protection for government employees who had voted for him at Drogheda. As the compromise reached over Drogheda, after a delay that exasperated him, evidently involved Hardman’s surrendering the seat at the dissolution in return for security for the present Parliament, provision for his eldest son now became an urgent object. On 8 Dec. 1803 he reminded the chief secretary of this. On 1 Jan. 1804, Addington asked the chief secretary to try to satisfy Hardman: ‘it is impossible for me not to feel more than common solicitude. He has supported me invariably during three sessions of Parliament, and never with more zeal and steadiness than in the last.’6

Nothing had been done for Hardman when Addington’s ministry was assailed by Pitt in March 1804. Lord Camden then promised him a place at the revenue board for his son if he rallied to Pitt. John Foster was intermediary in this ‘purchase of his political opinions’. Hardman voted with Pitt in opposition on 15 Mar., 23 and 25 Apr. 1804 and went on to support his second ministry. In May Hardman was already disappointed when it was explained to him that the promise made him did not necessarily apply to the first vacancy.7 On 19 June he presented his constituents’ petition against the corn committee report and on 28 June he objected to the Irish stamp duty on freehold registration. Otherwise, however, he made no gesture of opposition, voting against the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. 1805, and against Catholic claims, 14 May.

The Grenville ministry’s view of him in 1806 was that Hardman was ‘principally under the influence of Mr Foster, but changes when he finds the power of the latter becoming precarious’: but as he was ‘not likely to be returned on the next election’, after toying with the idea, they did nothing for his son.8 It was not until the change of ministry in 1807 that Foster’s ‘persevering friendship’ secured Edward Hardman junior the place of secretary to the board of excise, which gave him an income of £1,200 a year.9 Hardman, who had not sought re-election in 1806, died in 1814.10

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Arthur Aspinall

Notes

  • 1. Add. 35772, f. 17; 35781, f. 96; Sheffield mss, Foster to Sheffield, 13 A